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Modi’s ‘free cooking gas’ leaves bitter taste

NAUBATPUR: Reena Devi says her life changed when she got a cooking gas connection under a billion-dollar programme championed by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meaning she no longer has to cook with wood or coal and breathe in smelly, toxic fumes.
But the programme to connect millions of homes to gas, empower women and cut pollution – designed as a key vote-winning policy for Modi – has been beset by allegations of corruption and misuse.
Devi says she had to pay 3,000 rupees ($43) for the “free” kit – the equivalent of a month’s wages for most people in her village Nisarpura, in India’s poorest state, Bihar.  “I pleaded with the officials that this is supposed to be free but they gave me two options: Pay and take the kit or forget it,” Devi said, rolling out bread to be cooked on the stove.
Critics say the programme has been marred by bribes and corruption and that the poor households targeted by the scheme cannot afford to pay for gas refills, pushing those who have received new stoves back to traditional fuels.
But the prime minister, seeking a second term in India’s marathon national election, has touted the cooking gas scheme a success as he campaigns around the country. Batting away criticism, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government says more than 70 million poor households across India now have gas stoves.


M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.